Global Warming Earth Providing Customer Service

The Global Customer Dissatisfaction of Sustainability

Caring for the environment is becoming more of a global priority, something which can be seen in communication strategy everywhere. By gaining more insight into the economics of the sustainability, it is apparent that new technologies have become proof of the enormous efforts to overcome a climate mutually assured destruction. Governments take more concrete actions. Businesses adopt Sustainable Development Goals as Key Performance Indicators. Consumers become more conscious and, as citizens, demand change. And yet, it’s not enough. The efforts are big but fragmented – the planet is just bigger and one whole. Do we not have the right tools or the appropriate resources? The reaction of the global population to the hazards of a virus hinted potential. If humanity is able to restrict its freedom to the boundaries of their homes, surely they can restrict its emissions, pollution, exploitation. Somehow the parameters of health do not translate directly to the environment and the reactions displayed are dissimilar. The freedoms restricted are qualitatively different. Governments and businesses were economically affected but they did not ‘stay home’. The environment, however, affects all and affects largely. It is the framework for every conceivable actor and when balance changes, it causes discomfort. It is important to address the discomfort through action. If the oil industry, a strategic sector for a state, were to completely close down as per a Green New Deal (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021) the workers and all of the involved parties, including ones linked through the supply chain should be, if not compensated, somehow taken care of. Since there is great discomfort and big demand for care, suddenly sustainability sounds like customer service. In fact, this is perhaps the first major problem – possibly the biggest problem – that is not treated to its root cause. Why is it easier to do something so ugly as to mobilize millions of soldiers during the World Wars than it is to improve the conditions of the environment? Climate change and sustainability is treated as a global customer dissatisfaction case.

Naming the customers
Usually, when we think of the customer we think of simple everyday folks. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to blame the individual for their consumer preferences causing environmental problems. This way, larger, more consolidated enterprises can shift the blame and alleviate some of the pressure for green change, which decreases their profit margin (at least in the short term). Indeed, individual effort is very important and reducing plastic cups use is significant. Albeit, it must not be registered in the context of constructing a scapegoat. Ask yourself, how do consumers have access to an abundance of resources, and particularly the non-environmentally friendly ones, in the first place and the picture becomes clearer. Under this prism, we must establish that here ‘customers’ can be governments (B2G), businesses (B2B) and consumers (B2C), which determines the burden sharing as it is ought be.

Isn’t customer service a good thing? 
If the basis of it is problem solving, it is an absolutely great tool. Paul Graham (2008) describes good customer service as a channel of direct feedback and impact on the work of software engineers, placed in the same room as phone agents. However, the predominant culture of customer care is plainly toxic. These departments work as mechanisms of amortization for unfulfilled promises and expectations set by other departments (it’s you, sales). It is cheaper for companies to pay a flat fee (a salary) for an employee with soft skills to calm down the client than it is to commit and fulfil the promise. Instead of providing an actual solution, customer service mitigates negative emotions and redirects the focus elsewhere. It tries to ‘massage’ grumpy clients, which is helpful only if the client is wrong and the product works fine. Plus, customer care is viewed as soft, which is also how environmental matters are viewed. No ‘macho’ is going to flex cleaning beaches. In essence this is what applies to the current argument. There is no defined plan followed in a disciplined way with effective enforcement mechanisms. Instead, among honest initiatives, there is a flood of marketing campaigns implemented by green states and businesses, which aim to raise their international prestige and incidentally establish them as contemporary role models in international relations and international business. Green advocates, from their side, often create the impression of doomsayers seeking vindication. It is positioning, as they call it in customer service: the customer is warned; so any shortcomings are on the customer.

Listening to customers
States do not want to fall behind. Even if green infrastructure can help move a state forward with more efficiency, many governments do not accept this and discard green as ‘unreliable’. In this regard, states want to avoid carrying the burden of being early adopters, because power in international relations is relative. At the same time, states which were historically at a disadvantage see the use of fossil fuels and environmentally detrimental practices as their right, because this is how ‘traditionally developed’ countries had built the foundations of their current prosperous status quo. Why should they be excluded? – they say. Businesses do not want to fall behind either. If anything, corporations can act even worse when it comes to competition. Consumers, on the other hand, just want to live their lives and enjoy. People want to have access to electricity at any moment. Families want to own two cars. Couples want to taste food coming from the other side of the planet at an affordable price.

How were states and commercial actors fine before coal and oil? They were fine because the competitor did not have either. The balance of power remained stable. How were people fine during past eras? They did not have such goods or services for the demand to exist. If I am going to use teleportation for 10 years (yes it burns the calories you would walk if you tweak the settings) and suddenly it is forbidden, I will be upset. But if I do not have this technology in the first place, I cannot miss, I can only wish. In this regard clients, and especially people, are loss averse.

Loss or loss?
Loss is the essence of the strategic problem ‘sustainability customer service’ is avoiding to solve. To make any of the clients lose is to create dissatisfaction. The loss, however, of normality, as a result of never-ending calamities constitutes the ultimate loss for everybody. There is, perhaps, a hidden hope that technology will solve all environmental problems by providing a solution at the last minute, similar to a patient waiting for a medical miracle. This mentality is also compatible with our customer care model. The cure is based on Research and Development – it becomes an externality at the hands of certain experts – while customer service covers all communicational necessities to stall. Can we count on a miracle? As Peter Thiel mentions in his book, from Zero to One, the advances in technology are mostly in the IT sector. While I do not entirely agree, as we have other examples with endless potential, such as 3D printers (yes it does have some IT too, IT is everywhere), we are unable to predict if the solution will be invented, if it can be applied on scale and if it can be implemented fast enough. Concerning this, the customer service should not count on future features to the product of climate. It should actually focus on legitimacy.

The legitimacy to lose by choice
And actually, legitimacy is the intentional focus of all strategic communication. The implementation of a special regime for salvaging the planet requires agreement and understanding depending on the proportionality. Wars are urgent, and even they may appear as not urgent. World War 2 did not seem urgent to Americans, protected by two oceans. They are also competitive, creating a domino effect of mobilization and competing alliances. In contrast, environmental changes are marginal, making it harder to capture it through senses. It is a matter governance and requires huge diplomatic effort. How can we make an honest looking effort to relieve the doubts, even of the most hardcore conspiracy theorists? How can you convince the so-called rogue states give up oil? How can you interfere with the current competition between the US and China? And do not even try to convince corporations who have invested billions in Liquified Natural Gas to give up on it, because it has already been branded as more eco friendly by the environmental customer service department.

Never explain – never complain
Communication and positioning are not enough. They are great as supplementary measures but should not be primary. The environment is not about making the consumer feeling good, bad, vindication or absolution, neither should it be a vehicle for international prestige. Unfortunately, the solution will have to be forced to a much larger degree than initially appreciated, which requires legitimacy. This means that actors will need to be okay feeling uncomfortable and keep pushing each other with proper diplomacy and tough negotiations. Imagine blackmailing a state to make it green. The alternative source of legitimacy will be in the form of biblical catastrophes. Do we really need a worldwide Pearl Harbor to convince people, governments and businesses to implement a wholistic framework? – because it will be much, much worse than Pearl Harbor.

Council on Foreign Relations (2021) ‘Envisioning a Green New Deal: A Global Comparison’ available at: Envisioning a Green New Deal: A Global Comparison | Council on Foreign Relations (
Graham P. (2008) ‘Hackers and Painters’, O’Reilly Media, p. 85-87

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Alexandros Sainidis

I am an International Relations Analyst and the creator of the blog Pecunia et Bellum. I have studied International, European and Area Studies at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, Greece. I am a bilingual Russian speaker and I am currently learning Mandarin in order to gain a deeper understanding of the current International Affairs in Eurasia.

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